|Me and My Gal (1932)
Run time: 79 min | Drama, Comedy, Romance
Director: Raoul Walsh
Writers: Philip Klein, Barry Conners
Stars: Spencer Tracy, Joan Bennett, Marion Burns
An improbable but totally engaging blend of comedy, romance and melodrama in one neat package. A period piece, evocative and witty, with a bottomless reserve of snappy dialogue.
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"Me and My Gal" is an ingratiating pre-Code comedy-drama enhanced by spirited banter between Spencer Tracy and Joan Bennett who play two young people feeling each other out as potential mates. Bennett is surprisingly good as a wise-cracking, down-to-earth waitress who speaks her mind and can easily hold her own against Tracy’s New York City cop. The pre-Code era’s lack of pretense about sexuality makes their impassioned kiss in the diner — as the two knock over items on the lunch counter — all the more humorous. Bennett, both impressed and amused by Tracy’s kiss, responds: "If you’re gonna kiss me like that, you’re gonna have to marry me." It’s a magical little moment that caused the passage of time since 1932 to drop away and left me there with them to enjoy the fun.
A sub-plot involves Bennett’s newly married sister, a good girl who nevertheless can’t resist her bad boy gangster ex-boyfriend. When he needs to hide from the police, she installs him in a spare bedroom, under the nose of her disabled father-in-law who is confined to a wheelchair, can’t speak a word and communicates only by blinking his eyes in Morse code. Later, when everything gets resolved, Tracy tells the father-in-law that the daughter-in-law is a good kid at heart in spite of what she did, expressing pre-Code generosity for forgiveness and tolerance, even in sexual transgressions with gangsters.
‘Me and My Gal’ is an entertaining romance/mystery/screwball comedy, featuring charming performances by Spencer Tracy and Joan Bennett, 18 years before they would pair again in the classic ‘Father of the Bride.’ Both stars are at their early best here, zinging wisecracks at each other at a frantic pace. Joan Bennett is the real surprise, shining in a role that would have been well suited for Myrna Loy or Claudette Colbert. Worthwhile for the two stars.
This 1932 comedy casts Joan Bennett and Spencer Tracy almost 20 years before they teamed in FATHER OF THE BRIDE. Here, their youthful zest and energy create sparks that fly! Bennett is a wonder as the wise-cracking dame who works in a diner — Tracy is his usual hard-boiled self — many comic twists and turns keep your attention — there’s a cute episode where you hear what they’re really thinking during a romantic scene ( this happens after Tracy mentions he’s seen a film called "Strange Innertube"). There’s a great supporting part for Glenda Farrell who sings a provocative number at a burlesque hall. As always Farrell is full of spunk. As is this movie — full of laughs,m great tempo and direction. A must see.
ME AND MY GAL is a bit run of the mill cinema except for the intrusions of several neat bits of business. Spencer Tracy plays Danny Dolen a fresh guy and wise guy cop just assigned to the docks. While the big deal on the docks is the arrival of some gangsters from Havana, Tracy and a detective assigned to tail the gangsters are sidetracked by a tiresome, vaudeville broad, drunk. Drunks, known as "pxxs acts' were an old theatrical tradition. Sydney Chaplin, Charlie's brother did a fine pxxs act (see THE BETTER 'OLE ). This is just terrible.
The drunk falls in the water, Tracy saves him and is instantly promoted to detective. The local cafe on his beat has a snappy cashier played by Joan Bennett. The gangsters just admitted to the US have plans to robe the safe deposit boxes at the bank where Bennett's sister, Marion Burns works. It seems as though she once had a thing with one of the gangsters (George Walsh, director Raoul's brother) but is now just about to marry George Chandler(!). She marries him when Walsh is arrested and sent away ruining the gangster's plans. Burns moves in with Chandler and his paralyzed and mute father (Henry B. Walthall). Chandler goes to sea and Walsh breaks out of jail. Burns still has a thing for Walsh (she knows what's in which safety deposit box) and hides in her attic. Tracy is able to track down Walsh and protects Burns from her involvement in the bank robbery.
It really not much of a picture. George Chandler was given a chance at a meaty role but as he can just pull his idiot face and speak perfunctory dialog its clear why he would be used in so many pictures as a bit player, often uncredited. He didn't have enough character to be a character actor but did really great bits in literally hundreds of films. Here, if he had any presence at all, he would have been brought back for a key piece of business in locating the gunman in the attic. Instead the plot is resolved another, less likely way.
The interesting bits are the snappy dialog between Tracy and Bennett, sort of a symphony in slang as they try to out hard boil each other. Latter a similar dynamic but amongst middle class types speaking the King's English would be featured in the Thin Man series. This is an early example of verbal foreplay. This boils over at one point to where they have a go at it on the cafe's counter top scattering various solid objects. This was years before Lang and Nicholson had it off in the kitchen in THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE (1981).
There is also a scene in which Tracy says he went to see a funny kind of a movie the other day, Strange Inner tube. There in a tight two shot without any cuts where Bennett and Tracy play a parody of STRANGE INTERLUDE (1932) complete with their inner thought heard on the soundtrack. Previously the play had been parodied by the Marx Brothers in ANIMAL CRACKERS (1930).
J. Farrell MacDonald has a few big scenes. His major traits here seem to be getting drunk and tell pejorative Irish jokes. Bert Hanlon, as a dumb flatfoot detective whose act here recalls that of Ditto (Edward Brophy) who followed Tracy around repeating what he just said in THE LAST HURRAH (1958).
In all, merely acceptable as entertainment on a rainy night's double bill in 1932, remarkable only for the sharply played repartee between the leads. A repartee which crackles because of the ease and naturalness that people could express their feelings in this pre-code picture.